Eleanor Roosevelt said, “Happiness is not a goal…it’s a by-product of a life well-lived.”

Goal setting is the first step towards creating a meaningful life. But are your goals working for you? Are they inspiring, challenging, pushing you towards your destination or are they lying on the first page of your diary, waiting for you to pick them up? The journey of achieving your goals builds your character and self-esteem. When your goals languish in your journal, your confidence and faith on yourself are hit.

Here are a few tips to help set goals –

  1. Choose goals that matter to you – Set your goals based on what is important to you in your life. Make sure the goals you choose are your dreams and not the shiny object everyone is running after. Goals that relate to the priorities in your life and align with your values will motivate you. A worthy goal is thrilling, important, and daunting for you. If the thought of accomplishing it excites and challenges you, and if the outcome is personally important to you, the goal will drive you. The following questions may help you select your goal – 
    • Why is the outcome you seek important to you? 
    • How will it serve you?
    • How will it serve others?
    • How will achieving it make you feel? 
    • What do you want to experience?
    • How does this goal help your identity?
    • How will your life change when you achieve it?
    • How will the lives of others change once you have achieved your goal?
    • What is the cost to you of not pursuing this goal?
  2. Use your goals to create the kind of life you want – You do not want to put your time and energy into making something happen and be unhappy despite the success because the outcome does not support your desired life or create the identity you want for yourself. 
  3. Adopt achievement-based goals – Set your goals based on what you want to accomplish rather than what you want to avoid. A goal phrased in a way that moves you in the direction you want to travel is more energizing versus a destination that you do not want to reach. For example, I want to eat home-cooked meals every day is more positive and tells you what you do vis a vis, I do not want to eat junk food. 
  4. Prioritize your goals – It may seem appealing to set goals in multiple areas of life, but goals require time and commitment. Prioritize the top two goals at maximum, to avoid spreading yourself too thin and getting overwhelmed in the process. This way, you can fully commit to the priorities you choose.  
  5. Understand the trade-off – Committing to a goal entails making sacrifices in your current lifestyle. It will highly likely mean lesser leisure, more grind, more discipline. A goal that does not account for the hard work and sacrifices required is only a wish. Be aware that before the success of achievement lies the road of hard work and delayed gratification. If you enjoy the process of getting to your goals, you are more likely to achieve the results. Be willing to pay the price.
  6. Be specific – Goals that are vague or non-specific do not provide any guidance for achieving them. Make your goals specific, measurable, and timebound. You need to know exactly what you want to achieve, in how much time, and the measures of success during the journey. Breaking a goal into smaller units provides milestones and measures to evaluate the progress towards the goals. Think about who, what, where, when, and why to create a blueprint to achieve your goals.
  7. Create alternatives – Think about as many potential ways of achieving your goals as you can. Capture them all and evaluate them. Thinking through alternate paths will make your goals real for you, give you confidence, and make you resilient.
  8. Identify the resources you will need – Plan for the resources that you will need to achieve your goals. How and when will you obtain them? Who might you want to brainstorm with? Who might you need to cheer you on or challenge you?
  9. Plan to overcome obstacles – As you set goals, think about the possible barriers that might come in your way. Reflect on how you may work through these barriers or circumvent them. Everything may not go as planned. Considering challenges and potential solutions in advance gives you an internal locus of control and primes you for success. 

Aristotle had said – “well begun is half done”. Setting goals based on your dreams, priorities, and desired identity, breaking them into smaller units, setting timelines, planning for the resources you might need, and the obstacles you might encounter certainly increases your likelihood for success.